The Eschatological Purposes of the Lord Defined in the Psalms
By: Pastor Michael Osminski
Here is a summary of the purposes of the Lord for the establishment of His kingdom in human history as illustrated in the Psalms. In this, I have drawn observations from a number of scholars, including Walter Brueggemann, David M. Howard, Gerald H. Wilson, David C. Mitchell, Eric Zenger, and several commentaries on the Psalms:
The Psalms are divided into five books. The parallel between the five books of David and the 5 books of Moses existed in Jewish Rabbinic thought:
Book 1: The Book of David (Psalms 1-41)
Book 2: The Book of Solomon (Psalms 42-72)
Book 3: The Book of the struggling community/divided kingdom (Psalms 73-89)
Book 4: The Book of the exile (Psalms 90-106)
Book 5: The Book of the return to the land (Psalms 107-150)
The psalter is thus set up to reenact the history of Israel, from the institution of the kingship to the resulting removal from the land and return of the people after the exile. In the unfolding of that story, Yahweh's eschatological purposes for His kingdom are demonstrated.
Psalms 1-2 are the prelude to the entire psalter. Psalm 1 does not really contain the meter, cadence, and rhythm of the other psalms in the psalter that qualify them as Hebrew poetry and lend themselves to being sung as songs of worship. This is significant.
Psalm 1 is wisdom teaching. Teaching of the word and submission to it must precede true worship formation. The praise of Yahweh that the whole psalter moves us toward will not be fully realized unless we submit to the wisdom of the word that He demands. Psalm 1 thus deals with the way of righteousness that we must choose and the way of wickedness that we must reject to be blessed by the Lord.
Psalm 1 begins with the words "blessed the man," and Psalm 2 ends with the words "blessed are those," and thus linking these two psalms that begin the psalter together.
Psalm 2 is a royal/Messianic psalm celebrating Yahweh's victory over His enemies while installing His [Messianic] king on Zion. So the kingdom of the LORD will be established through embracing His righteousness and submitting to His king. Walter Brueggemann sees the psalms moving from beginning in obedience (Psalm 1) to culminating in praise (Psalm 150), moving from duty to delight. He sees a critical turning point in Psalm 73 (the start of Book 3), where, in the midst of suffering brought by the divided kingdom, the Assyrian crisis, and the heading toward inevitable exile for both Israel and Judah, there is a word of hope in Psalm 73:16-17. He sees the theological pattern in the psalms as a crisis of the LORD's HESED. This Hebrew word, which is found over 150 times in the Psalms, is consistently translated as "steadfast love" in the ESV. This word is translated in the various OT translations as mercy," "loving kindness," "covenant love," "loyal love," "unfailing love," or "loving deeds."
HESED addresses the celebration of Israel's covenant relationship with Yahweh and speaks about His faithfulness toward His people. HESED is Yahweh's covenant love toward His people. This is the OT parallel to the AGAPE love in Christ Jesus toward the church. This is the term used by the LORD when He proclaimed His name to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7 as a declaration of who He is to His covenant people. When the LORD's people are called "saints," one of the terms used is HASID, or the HESED-ones who are immersed in His steadfast love. Brueggemann continues that the Psalms (in fact, the entire OT) bring forth the crisis of the Lord's HESED in that He brings His people through suffering by granting them hope that leads to thankfulness that leads to praise and worship. The psalter provides a pattern in which the people of God celebrate the LORD's HESED to create a life of faith. Brueggemann's described pattern includes: a) suffering and hope inside obedience and praise; b) communion with the Lord inside suffering and hope; and c) faith between the boundaries of obedience and praise. The psalter is organized to portray this eschatological pattern.
Book 1 describes the establishment of David's kingship.
Book 2 describes how the kingship of David is preserved for Solomon (notice Book 2 ends with Psalm 72 "for Solomon" as the heading).
Book 3 describes the failure of human leadership to preserve the kingship because of the divided kingdom (Book 3 ends with Psalm 89, which speaks of the failure of the Davidic kingship; there would never again be a Davidic king on the throne of Israel after the Babylonian exile; see in particular Psalm 89:49-51 and the loss of the Davidic king as a "conflict of the Lord's HESED" or "what happened to your promises to David, Yahweh?").
Book 4 begins with the answer to the theodicy of Psalm 89: a prayer of Moses, the man of God (a prophetic/apostolic intercessor) in Psalm 90. As Moses prayed for forgiveness after the incident with the golden calf when the Lord threatened to reject the sons of Israel, and then prayed for the restoration of His glory and presence to move among them once again (in Exodus 32-34), and the LORD answered by proclaiming that His steadfast love would triumph (Exodus 34:6-7 as mentioned above), so too would Yahweh rise again to restore Israel and Judah from exile.
Book 4 continues with respect to the time of Moses (besides the heading to Psalm 90, Moses is mentioned in Psalms 99:6; 103:7; 105:26; 106:16, 23, 32, and notice the references to his intercession and that of Samuel as well). The central theme of Book 4 is then, in the context of the example of Moses's intercession (there is a parallel here to Daniel's prophetic intercession in Daniel 9), the establishment of the kingship of the LORD (Psalms 93-100) both in Israel and among the nations of the earth (as also described in Isaiah 2). Man may fail (David’s sons), but the Lord will not fail to be faithful to His covenant promises.
Book 5 then celebrates the return from exile and the establishment of the kingdom of Yahweh. These final Psalms 107-150 are dominated by praise ("Hallelu Jah") and the utilization of HESED/HASID, which are used 70 times in the Hebrew of Book 5. The majority of the psalms in books 1-3 are psalms of lament, while the majority of the psalms in books 4-5 are psalms of praise. I realize that once you see this pattern emerging, you are free to get from the Lord what He shows you, but for me, the kingdom pattern in Psalms shows that the failure of man's leadership (books 1-3) leads to the eschatological answer of the establishing of the Lord's kingship in books 4-5 through the power of His steadfast love and grace.
Prophetic/apostolic intercession provides a powerful impetus on the part of the church and fivefold leaders to collaborate with the Lord in the establishment of His kingdom purposes. This is especially true in this hour, as we see the considerable failure of human leadership in the earth and in the church. Man's rule brings lament, while the Lord's reign through Christ brings praise and joyful obedience. This pattern so clearly demonstrates Revelation 5:1-5 in that "no one in heaven and earth was found worthy to open the scroll," except for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
Remember that the book of Revelation, at the end of the NT era, is about covenant renewal, not its initial establishment. The OT parallel is that Moses's petition in Exodus 33 is also a covenant renewal (after the first set of tablets were broken by Moses because of the incident of the golden calf); the return from exile is a covenant renewal (broken by Israel and Judah that led to the banishment from the land); and the book of Revelation is a covenant renewal from a church that must "come out of Babylon." The kingship of the LORD, through His son, the Messiah, is both the source of our covenant provision and our covenant renewal whenever that becomes a necessity.
Gerald H. Wilson states that he believes that Book 4 is the "center of the Psalms" because Psalms 93-100 establish the ultimate purpose of OT theology as well as the theology of the psalter: they proclaim Yahweh as King in sustained, joyful outbursts of praise. These Kingship of Yahweh psalms do indeed provide an answer to many of the questions about the presence and activity of the LORD raised in earlier psalms. Eric Zenger points out similarities between Psalms 2 and 149 (second and second to last psalm in the psalter) in that Psalm 149, similar to Psalm 2, proclaims Yahweh's victory over His enemies (a "new song" always refers to a major victory over enemies that delivers His people), exhorts the people to rejoice in their king in Zion, deals with His people partaking in the binding of the nations, and describes this as an honor for all His HASIDIM/His HESED-ones. Then, of course, Psalm 1 and Psalm 150 illustrate the movement from obedience to worship.
This is only a small portion of the examples of the eschatological pattern that describes how God works out His kingdom in human history (this is my definition of what "eschatology" really is) and that emerges from the Psalms. Be blessed my brothers an sisters.
Eschatology in the Psalms
Guest: Pastor Michael Osminski